This Draft proposal was presented to the WORT Board of Directors on May 16, 2012
WORT Long-Range Planning Proposal Draft 5/9/12
“In order to form a more perfect station, we hold these truths to be self-evident…” Truly, the WORT Long-Range Plan is a big deal. This plan is our serious attempt to articulate a series of coherent initiatives that can develop our beloved community radio station into a vibrant, sustainable, dynamic media center for the next twenty years. We aspire to a WORT whose programs resonate with a broad and committed audience, whose volunteer opportunities attract a new generation of programmers to make music and news for the benefit of our community, whose facilities are inviting, accessible, and technologically on the ‘leading edge’ of radio. This Plan is a map to that set of aspirations, and we invite you, the reader, to jump on board and travel with us on this amazing journey.
Part of the seriousness with which we offer these initiatives comes from understanding the costs of not acting at this time: According to research provided by WORT’s Programming Committee in 2011, WORT’s cume listenership has been steadily declining each year since 2004, and as WORT is attracting fewer young adult listeners the audience is aging, which is a concern for the future of the station. WORT’s dedicated fundraising efforts are consistently generating revenue for the station but have been unable to keep up with increasing expenses.
Due to the inherent nature of community radio (community driven and funded) and its reliance on the contributions of listener-sponsors, fundraising is largely reliant on audience development as a means of building the community that will financially support the station. Given this dependence, it is likely that as WORT’s listenership continues to decline so will the station’s ability to generate funding.
Given the changing technological landscape and the variety and different form factors of the media available to modern audiences, it is imperative that WORT’s programming and outreach keep pace with the current technologies and tactics that engage listeners (especially new and young adult listeners) in order to compete for audience attention and, in turn, support from listener-sponsors. In short, as technology evolves, the audience evolves, and if WORT continues to fall behind the relevancy and survival of the station comes into question.
With a limited budget, WORT must be creative in how to utilize existing resources in new ways, reach out to new audience members, create additional mutually beneficial partnerships, and generate new funding needed to update the technology and techniques necessary to retain and attract new audience members and ensure that the WORT community will grow and thrive.
The Six Core Initiatives
WORT needs to address these important issues today in order to sustain a future for this station we so deeply treasure. The WORT Long-Range Plan is guided by six core initiatives that must work in concert with one another to fulfill our vision for WORT, to be fully realized by the year 2018:
A thorough fiscal analysis of WORT needs to be completed, resulting in a coherent five-year financial plan for the station.
Generating new and sustaining sources of revenue are crucial to the changes visualized by this plan, and are essential to the sustainability of WORT in any format. These revenues will be realized through an integrated strategy that includes:
(1) fundraising, with long-range, sustained elements in addition to cost-effective short-term approaches;
(2) marketing strategies — each with clearly articulated goals and tactics, with measurable outcomes; and
(3) development of potential grants and other revenue sources that align with other priorities of this Plan. We seek new, major, donors, as well as broader and deeper relationships with listeners.
As this is done, it must be approached mindful of cost-effectiveness and alignment of internal resources so they are potentially synergistic in their impacts. This requires an honest review of current practices, seeking efficient ways of working that take best advantage of the Staff and volunteer talents at our disposal… be open to role shifts, new ways of working, and cost-saving that could be achieved through such a review (see 6B below).
We will create new on air opportunities for the next generation of radio listeners and radio makers. This program development pathway proposal is within our grasp to implement immediately. It will help foster the internal cultural shift required for improved collaboration and accountability (see below).
WORT Staff and Board should identify specific standards of quality, a process with clear steps for implementation, training, performance review of programmers, volunteer development and recognition, etc. This includes volunteer training around all elements of WORT, including the new digital functions and other needed elements of program development. Identify the need for new programs and create pathways for them to get “airborne.” Create a process for putting more programs online (develop a ‘farm system’ from which on air programs can be developed, piloted, and assessed for slots as they become available)
Develop and implement a robust volunteer programmer training curriculum
Investigate opportunities for new youth programming and continue to develop culturally diverse programs that serve broad segments of our community.
Know our audience. Gain a deep, rich, shared understanding of our listeners. As a result of this effort, we can develop programs that better reflect the rich diversity of our community and better connect with listeners’ needs. This will also inform fund-raising options and helps us target marketing and outreach efforts so they are most effective.
Develop metrics and tools to measure our audience.
Investigate and analyze currently available tools.
Create calendar of audience surveys and participatory methods of qualitative measurements (descriptions and stories).
Enhance Community Advisory Board so it can be a strong resource for making connections to our audience. (see VI. below)
Modernize marketing initiatives in order to effectively reach our various audience elements and sub-populations.
Periodically test that our programming is responsive and relevant to the communities we serve. If we find room for improvement, we do it. (see II. above)
Adopt program evaluations and quality standards that enhance our accountability to the community and to one another.
Identify and train volunteer ‘ambassadors’ for audience development and community relations.
WORT will make a full commitment to the Technological Transformation of the Station. This is crucial for its long-term viability:
The technological shift — to become a digital media center — must be a priority for full implementation by 2018.
We need to convert studios to digital (wiring, routing, etc.)
Capture and tag “metadata” from FM programs and put them online
Create tools and methods for acquiring and creating the data
Train volunteers on the process
Recruit, coordinate, and supervise additional volunteers as necessary
We need to archive the metadata and create new programming ‘channels’ that access it.
A 21st century media center requires a 21st century facility. A thorough analysis of the station’s facilities (including use of technology) must be completed, resulting in a conversion to a more modern & accessible infrastructure (wiring, etc), a more usable & accessible facility (upgrade or move), and a system for capturing & disseminating digital data to accompany the audio program content. This will include a reorganization & renovation of our current facility, and an evaluation of the costs/benefits of augmenting or moving to create additional space. It will also include the training & development of new volunteers to serve WORT’s growing online audience with new web-based content. (See #2 and #4 above)
Governance structure — including both Staff and Board aspects — needs to be clarified and strengthened.
Implement an effective and appropriate Board training program, implement recommended CAB reforms, and examine ways to enhance and insure Board and Staff accountability (see below). WORT has a large cohort of responsive and responsible energy it has cultivated, both from paid staff and from 300+ volunteers… there is much to build upon here in a positive manner.
Improve the Board’s ability to lead and govern. Invest in Board training, based upon thoughtful needs assessment, curriculum development, training of current members and orientation/ training of new members as they come to the Board. Engage in proactive, ongoing assessment of needs to keep program updated and accountable.
Staff changes should then be explored through a thorough review of roles and responsibilities that will be needed for the fulfillment of this vision, brought forward incrementally to the Board as various reviews are completed and the funds are identified to pay for new or reconfigured positions. Staff job review can happen in 2012, identifying those shifts in roles that make sense, identifying new roles that are priorities, and new positions that require additional dollars (see #1). The idea of a realistic review of all FTE’s makes sense … we can be easily entrenched in the jobs we have always performed and resist changes that make sense for the future. But in doing so, account for the psychology of transition and help incumbents of positions/ roles go through the change in a supportive and respectful way.
How to Make it Happen: Core Positions, Structures, Policies, and Processes
Hire a Long-Range Plan Project Coordinator (LTE Project position) in order to coordinate the Plan’s various elements and facilitate their implementation in partnership with the Board and other Staff.
This position is essential in order to ‘shepherd’ the diverse initiatives outlined in this Plan. It creates a single source of accountability and momentum to increase the likelihood that initiatives will proceed in a coherent and coordinated manner.
This is a full-time position for the first year, with annual reviews of needs that will align with the timeline for implementation of the Plan. It should be created as a new project position.
We recommend this happen immediately, starting in July 2012, with a review in April to allow budgeting for the coming fiscal year (July 1).
The position will be funded through deficit spending in Year 1, reorganized roles and responsibilities that realize savings of existing funds in Year 2, and specific fundraising for Year 3, 4, 5 of the Plan.
The current Long-Range Planning Committee would remain in place as a guide and resource to the Project Coordinator, bridging communication and helping facilitate relationships with the Staff, Board, and ad hoc teams that arise in the implementation of the initiatives. The Board will insure that the LRPC remains fully staffed and has sufficient resources to carry out its work.
Articulate a clear Plan Timeline and Map… This will be posted for all to see as a guide and transparent reminder of our shared commitment to this vision and Plan. It can also be a source of celebration and recognition of people’s efforts… include key participants, post plans for technological change and building renovation or expansion as they develop, otherwise use this as a tool for sharing the progress with the community.
Identify and articulate a ‘natural accountability system’ to encourage shared incentives for success! Building from the strengths of collaboration and collective decision-making already present within WORT culture and policies, identify natural incentives and consequences to build accountability systems around this Plan:
Staff Accountability: The Staff will periodically (monthly) review progress towards the Plan’s goals and measurable milestones, including an assessment of each person’s contributions to expected/pledged action steps. The Project Coordinator will lead these discussions and help all access needed resources in order to be successful, as well as to help assure that Staff monthly reports to the Board keep that group informed.
Board Accountability: The Board will establish clear committee assignments that will be associated with the various initiatives of the Plan. The Board will periodically (monthly) review progress, hearing reports from those committees as they pertain to the Plan. The Project Coordinator will lead these discussions and help all access needed resources in order to be successful.
Volunteer Accountability: Volunteers are essential to the success of WORT, required for successful implementation of several initiatives within this Plan. Staff supervise volunteers and will provide sufficient training for them to be successful and know their needs are respected. The Project Coordinator will interact with volunteers, as needed, in order to assure their efforts are aligned with the Long-Range Plan initiatives.
LRPC Accountability: The LRPC will continue to meet monthly, along with the Project Coordinator, in order to review progress towards the Plan’s goals and measurable milestones, including an assessment of each person’s contributions to expected/pledged action steps. The Project Coordinator will lead these discussions and help all access needed resources in order to be successful.
Project Coordinator Accountability: The Coordinator will report to the President of the WORT Board and they will meet monthly for appropriate supervision.
WORT Accountability to its Listeners and Community: WORT has a long-standing responsibility to its listeners that it has attempted to embrace through this Long-Range Planning Process. As such, implementation of the Plan needs to continue this relationship. The Plan will be published on the website and be visually prominent at the station for visitors. Progress will be updated regularly, and communicated through newsletters, station announcements, and annual meetings. Such communication will be vital to the audience development and fund-raising initiatives, as well; these form natural incentives to engage in such accountability.